Villa Maria – Italian for Heaven

I wanted to write a little bit about the place we stay in Minori. It’s an agriturismo called Villa Maria and it sits in the hills above Minori town

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The garden at Villa Maria

The owners, Vincenzo and Maria, are the perfect hosts and, I’m honoured to say, also our friends. Maria’s cooking is well known in the area and beyond. They have both featured in several TV programmes, most notably with James Martin and David Rocco.

 

I can’t begin to describe Maria’s cooking except to say that it’s deceptively simple (actually she just makes it look that way). I’ve got numerous photos but photos don’t show smell and taste. I’d just suggest you whizz through the videos and see how top chefs like these rate her food.

Almost all the produce is grown or reared on the farm. The chicken is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten anywhere, and that includes free range, corn fed, poulet de Bresse, it’s unbelievable.

This year we were there in June and the courgette flowers were in abundance. Maria just stuffs a little scamorza or smoked provolone cheese into them and dips them in a light batter (the same one as in the Rocco programme) and deep fries them. We struggle to get courgette flowers here but if you grow your own then I’d cheerfully suggest you sacrifice some courgettes to get the flowers for eating. (I’ve got an excellent recipe for crab stuffed flowers too, but braised this time in a cardamom stock. I’ll save it for later).

I mentioned in an earlier post about getting dishes found nowhere outside Minori, true cucina povera, and Maria makes the best n’dunderi I’ve ever tasted. They’re a light ricotta egg and flour dumplings and were one of the first ever types of pasta, preceding gnocchi, and now made only in Minori.

Her traditional pasta fresca is sublime too and we were treated to it in an abundance of sauces:

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Ravioli with tomato and aubergine

 

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Pasta alle vongole

Then, of course, there’s the salumi and prosciutto , all of which they make themselves when there’s a pig killing, oh and their own cheese.  The cheese is soft when new and then ages to a semi hard bit of heaven if you love cheese as much as I do. It’s great to try it at its different stages of maturity.

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Antipasti di salumi e formaggio

Vincenzo also makes his own wine of which we were forced to drink copious amounts :-). He’ll tell you that you can drink as much as you like and you’ll never have a hangover….well to date he’s right!

Enough of the travelogue though. I’ll just mention that Vincenzo also grows some of the finest Amalfi lemons anywhere. Well, he does have an ambassadorial role for the producers.

Hmm, now I wonder what my next post could be about????

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